SharePoint is worth the upgrade to FrontPage 2002

SharePoint is worth the upgrade to FrontPage 2002

BOX SCORE

Microsoft FrontPage 2002 with SharePoint Team Services


ALL-IN-ONE WEB SITE CREATION AND COLLABORATION TOOL


Microsoft Corp.;

Redmond, Wash.;
tel. 888-218-5617

www.microsoft.com
/frontpage


Price: $169; upgrade $89.95; 30-day free trial version for $10 shipping; $239 up as part of Office XP suite


+ Good value

+ Real SharePoint team collaboration

+ Very good database interface wizard

- Design defect can cause crashing

- Product must be reregistered if server is upgraded or changed.


Real-life requirements:

Win XP, 2000 Server or Advanced Server; Microsoft Internet Information Services 5.0; at least 128M of RAM; 75M of free storage for first installation and at least 5M for each Web site; Microsoft Data Engine or SQL Server 7.0 or later version

Collaboration features in FrontPage 2002 make it easy for employees and contractors to collaborate on site or in scattered locations.

A single feature of Microsoft FrontPage 2002 makes the upgrade worthwhile for agencies with developer staffs: SharePoint Team Services.

It's far better than the primitive collaboration of past FrontPage releases. SharePoint can work alone as a Web-based collaboration and document management system.

You install it as an option after FrontPage 2002 is installed. Unlike most of the other components, SharePoint will not run under Unix. It requires Microsoft Windows XP, 2000 Server or Advanced Server with Internet Information Services 5.0.

The way it works reminded me of an old-fashioned, dial-up bulletin board. SharePoint sites can be public or restricted to authorized members via a combination of SharePoint and Windows permissions.

Security is role-based. Team members are assigned role accounts that include browse-only, contributor, author, advanced author and administrator. The administrator can create new roles or edit the default ones.

All you can do

Users log in through Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0, Netscape Navigator 4.75, or later versions of the browsers. They can upload or download files to document libraries and create threaded discussion groups on the fly. They can add common calendars, task lists, contact lists, announcements and Internet link collections. HTML editors aren't necessary except to change the look of the application itself.

One of the most useful things FrontPage 2002 can do is build searchable file libraries of documents in native formats. You make a new library container with a single click and then import documents.

It took me several hours to put more than 12,000 Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, databases, text files and Adobe Portable Document Format files into a library. The documentation states that you can build large libraries in minutes by pointing files to a Web folder on the server. I had some difficulty making that work but finally succeeded.

SharePoint has a built-in Structured Query Language engine to manage files. It performed my library searches well, but larger libraries might require something stronger, such as Microsoft SQL Server.

Document sharing can be restricted to team members on a particular server or others located anywhere by hyperlink. They can hunt documents via key words or by drilling down into a file tree called Folder View, which works only with Internet Explorer 5.0. The correct viewer application must be installed on the local machine'users can't view PDF files, for example, without Adobe Acrobat or another PDF viewer.

To keep everyone on top of a project, team members get automatic e-mail alerts from SharePoint's subscribe feature when documents are added or changed or new messages are posted to discussion boards.

A survey feature can poll the team and display results graphically or import them into a spreadsheet for analysis.

The first release of any software product always has its problems, and SharePoint Team Services is no exception. I blew away my initial installation more than once when I opened it with FrontPage as a disk-based Web folder instead of opening from the server by using a uniform resource locator.

Fresh content is essential for a good Web site, but most webmasters wait on others to create content'and wait and wait. FrontPage has an automatic way to update syndicated Microsoft content such as weather forecasts and Expedia maps through a link and a simple script.

Your top 10 pages

The robust usage-analysis feature might eliminate your need for third-party traffic monitoring software. Daily, weekly or monthly traffic reports can be saved as HTML or as Excel spreadsheets. Administrators can automatically generate and post Top 10 lists with the most-visited pages and the top referring domains, URLs, browsers and operating systems.

A much improved database interface wizard creates the forms and pages required to display and update database content. Authorized users can view, edit, delete or add records.

The Photo Gallery is an easy way to display and lay out image collections. Government scientists and engineers would find it useful for publishing schematics, blueprints, diagrams or technical illustrations, too.

PowerPoint and Office users will like the new drawing tools. AutoShapes, drop shadows, Word art and callouts work just as they do in other Microsoft Office applications.

Webmasters can publish single or selected pages instead of an entire site, and publishing is noticeably faster.

Steve Graves, a former GCN reviewer, is chief engineer at Communications Resource Inc. of Potomac, Md. E-mail him at editor@sysnews.com.

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